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History of cities: Tayasal and Flores

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Flores, Guatemala today.
Photo by Javier Aroche.

If you’re reading BeyondDC the odds are good you’re interested in cities. As the writer of BeyondDC I certainly am interested in them. Occasionally I run across interesting pictures or facts about a city that may not be related to contemporary Washington, DC in any way, but that I nonetheless find to be fascinating. Consider this post the first in what will become an occasional series of short pieces on the history of cities.

Flores is an island city and regional capital located in northern Guatemala. There are about 14,000 people living there today. Internet imagery shows the town to be an idyllic Mediterranean lookalike popular with tourists, featuring tight streets, bright colors, and warm water. Although current events unfortunately reveals it to be more dangerous, it’s a fascinating town unlike anything in the United States.

And yet the town today is not nearly as interesting as its glorious history. For hundreds of years it was called Tayasal, and it was here that the great Mayan civilization made its last stand. Although the largest Mayan cities collapsed before the arrival of Europeans, several large and powerful ones remained for centuries after. Tayasal was the longest-lived such city. It didn’t fall until 1697, almost 70 years after the Spanish started trying to capture it, and at least 156 years after they first came to the city peacefully. As an independent entity Tayasal outlived the Aztec Empire, the Incan Empire, and all the other great cities of the western hemisphere civilizations. It was here that the history of the world changed forever.

It’s one of ten thousand places I want to visit in my lifetime, but probably never will.

June 23rd, 2011 | Permalink
Tags: History of cities



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